A short history lesson:
Mesa Verde National Monument was established by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to "preserve the works of man." It was the first national monument of its kind. This area was home to the Ancestral Pueblo people from about 600 A.D. until 1300 A.D. They originally made their homes on top of the mesas where they farmed and hunted for about 600 years. It was only during the last 100 years of their time in this area that they for some unknown reason moved their homes to the cliff dwellings. They lived there for a couple of generations and then migrated South into New Mexico and Arizona. No one really knows why they left.
There are over 4,000 archaeological sites in the park - 600 of those being some sort of cliff structure. We saw two of the three largest and most well-preserved cliff dwellings. The first was the Spruce Tree House:
The second hike was to the cliff palace - the largest cliff dwelling. Archaeologists believe that about 250 people lived here at one time. The hike in and out was pretty cool - the kids loved going up the skinny steps and ladders.
We also saw some of the ruins on the mesa tops.
The really was an incredible place. Although the ruins have been restored and cleaned up somewhat - it is remarkable that they are still standing after this many hundreds of years. I have always been amazed by the life and culture of the Native American Indians. It fascinates me!